by Rev. Johnny Wong
Faith is a key doctrine in our Christian life. Faith is a word with many meanings. It can mean faithfulness (Matthew 24:45). It can mean absolute trust, as shown by some of the people who came to Jesus for healing (Luke 7:2-10). It can mean confident hope (Hebrews11:1). Or, as James points out, it can even mean a barren belief that does not result in good deeds (James 2:14-26). What does Paul mean when, in the book of Romans, he speaks of saving faith?
We must be very careful to understand faith as Paul uses the word, because he ties faith so closely with salvation. It is not something we must do in order to earn salvation –if that were true, then faith would be just one more deed, and Paul clearly states that human deeds can never save us (Galatians 2:16). Instead, faith is a gift God gives us because he is saving us (Ephesians 2:8). It is God’s grace, not our faith, that saves us. In his mercy, however, when he saves us he gives us faith – a relationship with his Son that helps us becoming like him. Through the faith he gives us, he carries us from death into life (John 5:24).
Even in Old Testament times, grace, not deeds, was the basis of salvation. As the book of Hebrews points out, “it is impossible for the blood of the bulls and goats to take away sins” (10:4). God intended for his people to look beyond the animal sacrifices to him, but all too often they, instead, put their confidence in fulfilling the requirements of the law – that is, performing the required sacrifices. When Jesus triumphed over death, he cancelled the charges against us and opened the way to the Father (Colossians 2:12-15). Because he is merciful, he offers us faith. How tragic if we turn faith into a deed and try to develop it on our own! We can never come to God through our own faith, any more than his Old Testament people would come through their own sacrifices. Instead, we must accept his gracious offer with thanksgiving and allow him to plant the seed of faith within us.
Abraham had a very real faith. We know that Scripture says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (James 2:23). In one sense of that legal term “justified,” Abraham was justified at that moment, declared innocent in the sight of God.
But Abraham was not proven righteous until he subsequently obeyed God’s command and came to Mount Moriah, ready and willing to sacrifice his beloved son, Isaac. In that act he was justified in another vital legal sense: his innocence was displayed!
What James tells us is that the kind of faith that makes us righteous before God will also make us righteous before men. A true faith in God will transform us within, and the new person we have become will act out a relationship with God.
Rahab showed that she had a true and saving faith in God by hiding the spies that had entered Jericho. Likewise, we too can show our true and saving faith in God by many of the choices we made after becoming Chrisitans.
What a joy it is to know that our faith is real. What a joy it is to have a faith that works.
“You can say you are a Christian, but that doesn’t make you one. The true Christian will give evidence of faith by a transformed life. The kind of faith that will take you to heaven is the kind of faith that will produce godliness in your life here and now.” said Charles H. Robinson.